By Kyle Cheney
Donald Trump reversed himself again on Libya on Sunday, saying in an interview that he would have authorized a “surgical” strike to take out Muammar Qadhafi, after months of telling voters the country would have been better off if the dictator were still alive.
“I didn’t mind surgical. And I said surgical. You do a surgical shot and you take him out,” Trump said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
It’s his latest reversal on a crucial element of the Obama foreign policy. Trump has spent most of the 2016 campaign contending that a bungled Obama intervention in Libya is proof that the United States should’ve stayed out altogether.
“I never discussed that subject. I was in favor of Libya?” Trump said at a Texas debate in February. “We would be so much better off if Qadhafi would be in charge right now.”
That statement itself was a reversal from 2011, when Trump in a video blog argued that Qadhafi was slaughtering his citizens and that the United States should, “on a humanitarian basis, immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out very quickly, very surgically, very effectively, and save the lives.” (NATO intervened on behalf of Qadhafi’s foes, and anti-Qadhafi forces captured and killed him in October 2011.)
Pressed Sunday by John Dickerson about the shifts, Trump said, “I was for something, but I wasn’t for what we have right now,” Trump said. He added, “I wasn’t for what happened. Look at the way — I mean look at with Benghazi and all of the problems that we’ve had. It was handled horribly. … I was never for strong intervention. I could have seen surgical where you take out Qadhafi and his group.”
Kyle Cheney is a reporter for POLITICO’s Campaign Pro.
Trump ‘pushes Libya’s Haftar to endorse’ UN-backed government
US President Donald Trump has pressed for Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar to pledge support for the UN-backed Unity government, an Egyptian official has told The New Arab.
Trump reportedly told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pressure his ally Haftar and the rival parliament based in Libya’s east to pass a vote of confidence in the unity government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj.
“Trump has asked Sisi to play a part in ending the conflict and to make Haftar and Sarraj agree on a truce that would allow them to focus on combating extremists,” the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.
The Egyptian army hosted Sarraj and Haftar in Cairo in February for talks. They were set to meet but Sarraj said they did not meet face to face.
The army announced that the two sides had agreed to form “a joint committee” to come up with amendments to the deal that set up the unity government.
Clashes erupted last month after the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, commanded by Haftar, battled to seize the Tamenhant air base from militias backing the unity government.
Libya’s unity government headed by Sarraj was born of a UN-brokered deal signed in late 2015.
It has, however, struggled to assert its authority nationwide since taking office – Haftar has opposed Sarraj’s government and is backing the rival eastern authorities.
A senior Libyan government source told The New Arab last month that Sarraj had received an invitation to meet Trump and his administration at the White House in June.
The source said that Sarraj and Haftar could meet face-to-face in Washington.
The invitation came days after Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni met Trump to find a deal that could help end six years of war in Libya.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, with dozens of armed factions battling for control of the oil-rich country.